The best part of being here in Florida for two months is the quality time we get to spend with Ashley, Andrew, and our two oldest grandsons. When I’m with the boys, I try to model good behavior. However I’m seeing that when I’m apart from them, their behavior has rubbed off on me somewhat..and it’s not their sweetness I’m talking about. 
We see the boys every day Monday – Friday and babysit occasionally on a weekend night, but we try to give them “space” for family time on Saturdays and Sundays. So, faced with a free and sunny Sunday afternoon on our own, what else to do but go hunting for shark teeth?

I started out well with my usual optimism. That quickly faded as Tim found one right off. Then another. And another. I sulked off to a separate part of the beach as once again, I was not sharing his enthusiasm. He kept searching and finding teeth. I kept searching and finally found a small nub of a broken tooth. A tourist couple stopped to chat; they had been looking for four days and hadn’t found a single tooth. I showed them my nub. They weren’t impressed. Then two small children, their father, and grandfather strolled by. The children excitedly showed me their Baggies full. I feigned interest. Then, “Dad, you just walked past one. Look how pretty it is!” What obnoxious kids. 
About that time, Tim caught up to me. He had eleven teeth. I had one nub. Channeling a five year old, I sulked and kicked at the sand. As I did, something dark and pointed caught my eye. It was a tooth. A big one! Almost as big as the previous day’s find. Again like a five year old, my face lit up and my enthusiasm returned. 
We stayed on for a while longer and I found one more nice one. Tim found a total of sixteen. But who’s counting? The rules changed and “She With The Biggest Tooth” is the winner…remember? 

Or as the five year old described mine…

A big one, a pokey one and a bwoken one. 


It was a little chilly in Florida today, but a beautiful sunny day. I wanted to go for a bike ride; Tim wanted to hunt for shark teeth. We compromised and biked to the beach at Fort Clinch State Park which has the reputation as being a shark tooth haven.

We had not been on the beach for one minute when I heard, “I got one”. I mustered a smile and said “great”. A minute or two later I heard, “I got another”, quickly followed by “Bingo”. I stopped looking up. Not only I am pretty competitive, I’m also a poor loser. Or is it sore loser? I’m probably both.
I had employed every trick that seasoned and successful shark tooth hunters have told me about.
Low tide…Check

Search at water’s edge…Check

Walk so that my shadow is behind me…Check

Wear expensive new sunglasses…Check

Search without sunglasses…Check

Look for matte triangles of darkness; not glossy ones…Check

Dig a little bit into the sand as shark teeth are heavier than shells…Check

Still no teeth for me. As Tim yelled, “bingo” yet again, I told him he had to use a different exclamation the next time he found one.
Discouraged, I wandered off by myself and sat amongst a pile of washed up shells. I was thinking about giving up searching for shark teeth and decided I’d start looking for John Grisham instead. He has a home here right next to a beach access, so he shouldn’t be too hard to spot, right? And it’s much warmer here than in Charlottesville where he also has a home, so maybe he’s in town. I had it all planned.
Tim walked up to me, and seeing my long face, asked if I was ready to go. I said yes and as I was getting ready to tell him about my exciting new plan to search for John Grisham instead of shark teeth, I swiped my hand across the top layer of shells to my side. Wait! What did I spy? A curved sliver of fossilized darkness…could it be…wait…it was! A tooth! My biggest shark tooth find to date! WooHoo; this is fun! Who said anything about leaving?

Tim found four teeth in this goldmine.

We ended up being on the beach for about an hour. I found one more tooth along the water’s edge; Tim found a total of eight (with one eureka and three more bingos). We talked to a lady who usually finds 100 a day. No wonder I have such a hard time. If others weren’t so greedy…

Tim declared the tooth I found is the largest one any of us has ever found. I decided to change the rules of the family competition. Instead of He With The Most Teeth wins, I think it should be She With The Largest Tooth is the winner.
Sorry Johnny G., you’ll have to wait til another day to meet me. And if you’re lucky, I’ll have my big tooth with me.

               Can you spot my big tooth?


imageBeau Palmer is my first cousin on my father’s side. He was born and raised in southern California; I am from Virginia. Although we met several times as children, we did not get to know each other until we were adults – when Tim and I moved to Southern California in the mid-198o’s. In my mind, Beau was a real California dude. He was a vegetarian, drove a VW bus, and referred to interstates as “the 5” and “the 10”. To add to the cool factor, he was also an opera singer. During our nine years in SoCal, we had many opportunities to hear Beau perform. It was always a treat.

During the next few decades, Beau traveled around the world singing as we moved across the country and then to Bulgaria where he visited us. In 2001 he got married and ‘retired’ from the opera to Montezuma, Georgia. He and has wife had four children who are now ten and nine, plus eight year old twins. Well, things don’t always work out as planned and his life took some unexpected turns. With shared custody of the children (who mainly reside with their mother about two hours away), Beau decided to go back to school to get his Master of Music at age 50. Now, nearly two years later, he is almost finished. I had the opportunity to attend his graduate recital earlier this week at Mercer University. I had not heard him sing in years, and was really looking forward to his recital. He did not disappoint. He sang a varied program – to excellent reviews I must add – in French and German. The last set consisted of three songs in English that he wrote – and composed the music – for his children. I’ve met his children…four bright, inquisitive, lively, creative, curious and rambunctious sweet kids. I could picture them as he sang all three songs. I have his permission to publish these lyrics. You probably had to be there to fully appreciate this southern gentleman’s approach to this song, but believe me, it was terrific. You can see for yourself on YouTube at
Fast forward to 2 mins and 15 secs to hear this song.

All that’s left for Beau are the comprehensive exams. As he has a 4.0 so far, I’m not worried about him.

Oh yeah…one more reason I’m proud of him. He recently gave up wheat (partly in solidarity with one of his sons who is gluten-intolerant) and as a result, has lost 50 pounds. Go, Beau!


From Songs For My Children…
When At Table
Dear children, there are just a few things you should know
Before out into the world you go,
I tell you all the time, and I know you’ll do fine,
But there are rules of etiquette for when you dine…

Get your elbows off the table
I am quite sure you are able
Do not shout, do not bounce
And put your feet in front of you
Do not belch, do not poot,
Eat your veggie and your fruit
And this would be so great
If you would eat over your plate.

Your shirt is not a napkin
Nor is it a towel or mop,
Gently lower yourself to the seat
For heaven’s sake don’t flop,
And please take my advice,
For it isn’t very nice
To make others shoot milk through their nose deliberately.

The world doesn’t need to hear
Each and every single thought that comes to mind,
Especially the ones that are not kind,
But where others fail you surely must not
If you haven’t anything nice to say
Don’t say anything at all.

Keep your lips closed while you’re chewing
Keep the food inside your face
Keep the chair on all four legs
Because that is its proper place
And please do not pick your nose
For it is very, very rude,
And for the love of God my child,
It is not food.

Do not carve in the table
with the tip of your steak knife,
I tell you this quite frankly
For I value your life.
Oh, my dear children, how glorious,
if only you’d obey!
Then we’d all live to see another day!
I really mean it!
We’d all live to see another day!

A little history on shark teeth…

Sharks like warm and shallow water, and there’s a lot of that in Florida. Also, ten million years ago, Florida was submerged under water teeming with sharks. As the water subsided, many species of sharks died out.

Sharks can lose between 20,000-25,000 teeth over their lifetime. They are constantly losing teeth and growing new ones. When a tooth falls out, it gets covered in sediment which protects it. Then, permineralization replaces the inside of cells with mineral crystals. The silica, calcites, etc. in the minerals determine the color. The black teeth are about 10,000 years old. Those are primarily the ones we find, and a lot of them are from prehistoric sharks. That continues to amaze me!

Both last year and this year are supposed to be good “hunting ” years as there is off-shore dredging going on. I’ve read differing accounts on the dredging…one us that they do it to deepen the channel in the St. Mary’s River for the submarines going to and from Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base. Another is that it’s done to replenish sand on the beach. I like to think it’s done for the first reason and the beach benefits from it. The work is done by the Army Corp of Engineers and costs millions of dollars. It might be worth it if I could find a few more teeth!

Ashley’s veteran shark tooth finding friend texted her a photo of six teeth she found this morning. I asked Ashley to find out where she found them and her friend replied, “Just off Reefer Street”. I asked Tim to Google Reefer Street. He did, but didn’t get any results. Finally it dawned on us that if you have to ask where Reefer Street is, perhaps you don’t belong there.

Knowing that Ashley was home with a sick child, Tim and I took off on an expedition without telling her. Well, it didn’t pay off as we didn’t find a single tooth. I’m not telling her that either. She might say we got what we deserved.

At least that’s how I would have described my day about 2:00. Whiney grand kids, things not going the  way I wanted…yes, I’m a brat.

We’re in north Florida having an extended vacation mainly to spend time with our daughter, son-in-law, and precious two older grandsons. Today we picked Liam, the younger of the two, up from school. He wasn’t too happy that it was us there and not his Mom, but he made the best of it. We brought him home and had fun until his Mom got home; things went downhill from there. He was whining, so Tim and I left to get Jackson from school. He was happy to see us, but his mood quickly changed when we told him of our plans to go shark tooth hunting at the beach. More whining. “The beach? It’s so boring”!

Despite complaints, we went to the beach anyway. I was excited and very optimistic that I would increase my shark tooth haul from a total of two teeth last year. (We have a friendly family competition, and I’m the big loser.) I thought I had a new secret weapon. My optimism quickly evaporated as Ashley spotted a tooth right off and then Tim did, too. Nothing for me. My secret weapon – expensive new prescription bifocal polarized sunglasses – didn’t help.  To add insult to injury, a random cute guy walked past and gave a tooth he had found to Ashley – who was right next to me. She said, “oh thank you. I’m going to give it to my Mom; she never finds any.” At this point I’m thinking “I hate this family activity” in the voice of a six year old. My mood change from good to bratty. The boys’ moods changed, too…from bad to good as they took their shirts off to run through the cold waves.

After an hour or so, we started thinking about going home. Then a friend of Ashley’s and her daughter appeared. Shannon, the Mom, a veteran shark tooth hunter, excitedly told us that she found 20 teeth yesterday, and ten this morning. Her daughter was excited Jackson and Liam were there to play with; how could we leave now?  The kids played while the adults bent over, scouring the sand for those magical little triangles of darkness. I found one! A brown one! No way am I leaving now! Dinner can wait. And then another – my tiniest find ever! Wait…what! Another one?! In less than 30 minutes I surpassed my total from last year. I like this activity!

Cathy and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? No way!


Finding a tooth is like finding a needle in a haystack. Don’t tell me if you see one in this photo.

image image



Tim’s find included a Susan B. Anthony coin.




A few weeks ago my son informed me I needed to get the “grandparent shot”….especially if I wanted to be near the new baby. I said “what?!…I’ve had two children, two grandchildren, and five nieces; I don’t think I need a shot to hold my third grandson”. He kindly said his wife would appreciate it if I got the shot. 

Not wanting to be one of those mother-in-laws, I googled The Grandparent Shot, not really expecting any results. Surprise, lots of results popped up! According to the CDC, The Grandparent Shot is the Tdap vaccine which protects against whooping cough (also called pertussis), tetanus and diphtheria. It’s very important to have the vaccine to protect babies from whooping cough. Cases of whooping cough have been on the rise in the US for the last five years, with two to three fatalities per 100 infants. 

Needless to say, I got the shot as did Tim. Baby Mac, we’re ready for your arrival!

It’s been a long time since I had the nesting instinct while pregnant. I don’t remember much about it, but I suppose I cleaned and organized the house, and took care of things I’d been meaning to do. Since then, most of the serious domestic activity that happens around here is when we’re getting ready for house-guests or a party!

I’m a big procrastinator (which drives my better-half crazy). I’ve got a long list of things I plan to get to, but I usually default to doing my favorite things – rehabbing and painting furniture, and knitting.

This morning I woke up and decided to do a few things on “the list”. I donned my apron and set up camp in the kitchen making pesto with basil from the garden, roasted tomato sauce (again with tomatoes from the garden, thanks Tim), and turkey broth from a carcass in the freezer.


Now I feel like I’m ready. Ready for what?

For our third grandson who is due August 5th!

Italians have a concept for piddling around known as “La Dolce Far Niente,” which means the sweetness of doing nothing. What a nice concept!

Growing up, my mother, father and I often went for Sunday rides. We’d first go to church, then out to lunch, and then on random drives around Norfolk. Sometimes we might have a destination, but most often we didn’t; my mother and I would look out the car windows and talk as Dad drove wherever the roads took us. We always ended the drive with a visit to High’s Ice Cream.


Today our morning started with Tim hiking 5.5 miles in “God’s Cathedral in the Woods” while I enjoyed the coziness of the “Church of the Inner Spring” – aka our mattress. Late morning, we decided to do something different for the afternoon and drive to the new Costco. A new store opened a few days ago in Charlottesville, which is just over an hour from us. At the nice, new store we picked up a few things, resisted many more, and then I thought it would be nice to continue our drive. My uncle and aunt live about 30 miles from Charlottesville, and I decided to find their house. With directions from our smartphones and a little intuitiveness, we enjoyed the country roads until we found their home. They weren’t there, but it was nice to see their 1825 farmhouse that I had not visited in many, many years.

country roadLone Oak

Driving back home, I got off the interstate to go somewhere I’ve wanted to go for a long time – the Swannanoa Palace on Afton mountain. We’ve passed this exit so many times, but have never taken the time to get off the highway and take a peek at the run-down Italian Renaissance Revival mansion that has stories to tell, I’m sure. It is open from time to time for tours, but not today.


We passed Papa Jim’s Ice Cream, and I think I heard him calling our names, but we didn’t stop. Trying to be healthy.

ice cream

All in all, we didn’t get much accomplished today, but there’s a lot of value in La Dolce Far Niente. 

I’m inspired to blog more by a new friend who blogs regularly at https://countryliving4beginners.wordpress.com.
Many of the photos she shares are of the same sights I see, yet she makes everything seem more interesting and beautiful.

Tim (aka Walker) and I just spent two weeks in southern California – Coronado – to be exact. For any of you who have had the opportunity to visit there, I’m sure you will agree with me that it is a beautiful place. We lived there from 1985-1994, and I’m afraid I may have taken some of its beauty for granted then. While visiting there this time, I was in awe of the natural beauty of the flora (palm and fruit trees, bougainvillea, agapanthus…) and fauna (sea lions and wild parrots!). I could hardly get enough of the beauty of the bay and ocean waters, the perfectly manicured lawns, and lovely architecture.

Back in Virginia this week, I’ve decided to try to see a different beauty in Rockbridge County and to notice things that I may have taken for granted. It’s been chilly, rainy and humid the past few days compared to the warmth, sunshine and dry climes of California. I am thankful for the rain (as I’m sure southern Californians would be as well) as it makes our lawns and plants more healthy and lush.

As I cut the grass the other day, I noticed this in Tim’s “whimsical garden”. Though his garden is neither manicured nor perfect, it is beautiful in its own way.


We’re headed home to the USA, we won’t be going back to our house until May 20. We’ve been traveling for 99 days which includes our nearly two months in Florida. That’s the longest Walker and I have ever been together for one stretch. Ninety nine days of going to bed and getting up (mostly) together; two hundred and ninety seven meals. During this time we celebrated our twenty ninth anniversary. We confirmed our ability to tolerate each other during months of constant companionship. With all of our differences, we’re happy to say we get along really well. As some things don’t come naturally to us, we still compromise. Most mornings, he gets me up earlier than I would like to, but he is learning to sleep in a bit. He’s getting more comfortable with stopping to smell the roses going at a slower pace and I’m getting better at keeping my mouth closed at certain times. It must be working as we’re already talking about our next adventure!

What did we learn?
We learned that of all the modes of transportation we used (plane, train, taxi, subway, ferry, bus, Mercedes convertible, and walking) that walking is our favorite. When you are walking, you feel a real connection to the place you’re in. You’re able to see people face to face, it’s easy to stop and take photographs of interesting sights, you can moo at the cows and bark back at dogs. (Yes, I do that.) There’s nothing like experiencing your surroundings at three miles per hour. Walking on the Camino, you feel the energy of the millions who have walked before you. It leaves an imprint.

We learned how simple life is when you’re living out of a backpack. I noticed that when we added the box/bag of clothes that we shipped ahead to our ‘inventory’, it started getting harder to keep up with things. I often had to unpack both my backpack and the bag to find what I was looking for.

In our regular lives we often let our possessions get in the way of living our lives in the best way we can. Although I’d like to think this is going to change on my part, it isn’t…not anytime soon. It’s too easy to fall into old habits. And though I don’t mind the idea of wearing the same thing everyday and washing it out at night, I don’t think that’s very realistic for me.

I learned that even though I packed minimally, I could have eliminated a few things, namely a shirt and pair of socks. I didn’t realize Walker had a hairbrush, and we could have done without that as well. Walker says this reminds him of his AT hike where everything he carried with him had an important function…or else he got rid of it.

We learned that after a 12 year absence we will still able to connect with friends. Although we all live very different lives, we still have much in common and lots to talk about. The friendships we made in Bulgaria and the friendships we formed on the Camino were fast and strong, based on shared experiences, challenges, and being like minded people. Similar to our experience with military families, expats and pilgrims in general are pretty adventurous people who are fun-loving and not afraid to try new things. Bonds are formed naturally, and thanks to Facebook, it’s really easy to stay in contact.

We learned that we appreciate natural history, especially geology, and human history much more. We were also reminded how many nice people there are in the world – people of all races and nationalities, and of all religions – or not religious at all.

So, what’s next? We don’t know yet. But, I’m awfully inspired by a reader named Linda. Walker met her on the AT one day and it turns out we go to the same aesthetician. She lives about an hour from us. She’s currently walking the Camino Frances solo having started in LePuy which will make it a 1,000 mile journey. Isn’t that something? She’s blogging at scandore.wordpress.com if you’re interested in following her.